5 Things to Do If Baby Wakes Up When Put Down

You have just spent the last 30 minutes rocking your baby off to sleep. As her eyes drift to a shut, you gingerly put her down into the cot, praying to god that she wouldn’t wake up. Just before you could congratulate yourself, her eyes snap open and a loud wail escapes her tiny mouth.

Why? Why do babies wake up the moment they are put down?

my baby wakes when i put him down

The reason why your baby wakes up when you lay her down

The most likely reason, according to Sarah McLean of Sleep Kids Consulting, is the experience of a sudden change. From being in a snug and warm embrace to a cold sheet, the sudden change in temperature would jolt anyone awake.

In addition, young babies have a pretty strong startle reflex. So when you put your baby down, the sudden change can cause their arms to jerk violently, startling them awake.

So what is a tired parent to do?

#1: Establish a Bedtime Routine

One way to solve the problem of baby waking up when put down is to eliminate the transition altogether. Rather than rocking your baby to sleep in your arms, start a bedtime routine. Give your baby a warm bath, change him into pyjamas, dim the lights and then place your baby in bed. Then, read him a bedtime story or sing him songs until he starts to nod off.

When starting this routine, don’t leave the moment your baby shows sign of sleepiness. Since he has always been rocked to sleep, this sudden change will likely cause an uproar. Stay with him, reassuring him with your voice and presence. If need be, pat him until he falls asleep. Over time, gradually fade off these support until he can part with you without a fuss.

#2: Swaddle

“A swaddle blanket works magic in helping to reduce the startle reflex,” says birth and postpartum doula, Nancy Adams. The startle reflex is likely a culprit in waking your child up when you put him down. Therefore, swaddling your baby will prevent your child from flailing his arm, causing him to wake up.

In order to do so, swaddle your baby first before you start your usual routine of rocking her. Then when your baby has fallen asleep, place her gently into the bassinet, swaddle and all.

#3: Use SnuggleTike

SnuggleTike warmable plush is a weighted and warmable plush which mimics the feel of a mother’s loving hand. Gently heat up the heat pack using a microwave and propped it back in your plush. Its soft fur and soothing heat is very calming for babies.

Rock your baby to sleep with the SnuggleTike warmable plush in his arms. And as he slowly drifts off to sleep, place him together with his SnuggleTike into the cot. With its weighted body and heat, it’s almost like you placing a hand on his chest to help him make the final leap into deep sleep.

why does my baby cry when i put him down
#4: Give it 20 minutes

When babies first drift off, they are in a state of light sleep and can still awake to sudden movements, sounds or temperature change. According to McLean, “it takes 20 minutes for babies to go into deep sleep”. As such, she suggests for parents to wait an additional 20 minutes after their babies have closed their eyes before placing them into the bassinet.

baby crying when put down
#5: Don’t get them overtired

“Overtired babies are very difficult to settle,” says Adams. This is because when babies stay up beyond their bed time, their bodies secrete adrenaline (a stress hormone) to help them stay awake. This makes them harder to settle and easier to wake. As such, she recommends sticking to a sleep schedule, and putting baby down to sleep before they get into this state. This will reduce the likelihood that your baby will wake up when you put him down.


Remember, it is pretty normal for a baby to wake up when you put him down. If you think about it, this means that his reflexes are working and that he is sensing their environment. Even though it may be frustrating, take solace in the fact that there are ways to help your child transition better from arm to bed. If you ever feel overwhelmed, seek professional help. And as with all things, this too shall pass.

What are some things you have found to help when transitioning your baby from your arms to her cot? Share them below!

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